PENN YAN — For nearly 50 years, Don Stork was the face of the local insurance agency that still bears his name.
Stork, one of this Yates County community’s most beloved residents, passed away in 2012. However, his family remains a big part of the company — and it appears that will be the case for many years to come.
“I think Dad would be proud of where we are today,” said Stork’s son, Steve, who is vice president of Stork Insurance. “The people are the main thing. We have very loyal customers, and it’s an amazing staff we’ve had over the years.”
While Stork Insurance can trace its roots to 1842 — that’s when Norris Dailey began working for Continental Insurance on Penn Yan’s Lown block — the Stork name entered the picture in the 1950s. That was when Don, a Penn Yan native and Navy veteran who was working for the state Legislature after graduating from Bowling Green State University, joined well-known insurance agent Charlie Beaumont.
The business became Beaumont & Stork in 1953. Beaumont passed away in 1967, but Don Stork kept the name for many years and was joined by his nephew, Jim, now the company president.
“Dad was really the person that drove it in the early days with a couple of employees, then Jim came on board in the early ’70s right out of the Marines,” Steve Stork said. “Jim is one of the smartest people I’ve ever met. He embraced the automation at the time.”
Beaumont & Stork remained until the 1990s, when Don partnered with another well-known Main Street insurance agent, Mike Manahan, to form Stork & Manahan. Manahan retired in 2002, and the agency rebranded to Stork Insurance several years later.
Today, Jim’s son, Matt; Steve’s son, Derek; and Matt Tette have joined Jim and Steve Stork on the management team.
“Matt Tette is a great guy. The customers really love him,” Steve said, adding that Jim’s wife, Ellen, helps out too, while Matt’s wife, Erika, does payroll. “It really is a family business.”
Stork points out that the management team spans a number of generations: Jim is in his 60s, Steve in his 50s, Matt Tette in his 40s, Matt Stork in his 30s and Derek Stork in his 20s.
“That is pretty cool,” Steve said, noting that Matt Stork, like his father, Jim, is business savvy.
Stork Insurance opened a branch office in Hammondsport in 1988.
“We always thought there was like a dividing line at Bluff Point, where customers south of the bluff went elsewhere (than Penn Yan) to get groceries, insurance and all that, so we said ‘Let’s capitalize on that,’” Steve said. “That is a three-person office and has held its own.”
While Stork Insurance has a strong customer base in Penn Yan and Yates County, it has clients throughout the state.
Stork Insurance specializes in insuring wineries. More recently, Steve said Derek has taken that part of the business to the next level, reaching out to breweries and distilleries.
“We’re known for that niche, but we don’t do just that,” Steve said. “We are a generalist and do homes and cars, municipality insurance, insurance for Main Street retailers, and we do a lot of seasonal homes on Keuka and Seneca lakes. As an independent agency, we can shop around for our customers.”
Although Don Stork suffered from Parkinson’s disease late in life, forcing him to cut back on his workload, Steve said his father was “involved right up to the end” and would still come into the office when he was in his 80s.
Don was known to many as “Mr. Penn Yan.” His wife, Corry, remains an active member of the community.
“He was a good role model for all of us,” Steve said of his father. “A lot of people have come up to me over the years and tell me what he meant to Penn Yan.”